reflection of skyline in an artificial pond

The Arboretum is a botanic institution and a venue for study, research, reflection, and enjoyment of the arts and nature. To help us to preserve the Arboretum and make everyone’s visit safe and enjoyable, please abide by our rules and policies.

COVID-19 Policy

Arboretum visitors must follow University COVID-19 safety requirements. By attending or participating in Arboretum programs, events, or activities, visitors agree to adhere to Penn State’s guidance and policies, acknowledge the risk of being exposed to or infected by COVID-19, and assume any and all such risk.

Penn State’s COVID-19 Policy for Visitors to Campus

Arboretum and Garden Rules

The following are prohibited:

  • Unleashed pets
  • Fires, tents, grills, and alcoholic beverages, except as authorized for organized events
  • Bicycle use in areas other than the Bellefonte Central Rail Trail and roads
  • Unauthorized motorized vehicles
  • Picking or destroying plant material or labels
  • Climbing trees
  • Construction of trails or structures
  • Disturbance to research and study areas

Please do the following:

  • Carry litter and recyclables out and dispose of properly
  • Report vandalism and hazards to the Arboretum staff

Children under 12 must be in the company of an adult who is responsible for their supervision.

Please do:

  • Be curious, be safe, be respectul, and enjoy this place of discovery and learning
  • Climb on low rocks and the bison, caterpillar, and mushroom sculptures
  • Wade in the creek near the cave
  • Leave behind the learning and play materials you find

Please do not:

  • Do not climb on the high rocks, cave, trees, round huts, or tree sculpture
  • Do not wade in the pools near the garden entrance
  • Do not throw rocks, sand, or mulch
  • Do not pick plants

The following are prohibited:

  • Pets, except for service animals trained to assist persons with disabilities
  • Alcoholic beverages, except as authorized for organized events
  • Bicycles, skateboards, roller blades, and similar devices
  • Climbing, throwing, and similar play
  • Wading in water features outside of the children’s garden
  • Walking in mulched plant beds
  • Picking or destroying plant material or labels
  • Unauthorized commercial and event photography

Contact the Arboretum staff to schedule events, tours, and commercial or event photography.

Geocaching Policy

Geocaching is a great way to explore the 370-acre Arboretum.

Are you searching for an existing geocache? Please observe our posted rules of behavior (Garden Rules and Arboretum Rules) and remember that seemingly remote and “wild” portions of the Arboretum may be the locations of active projects such as graduate student research.

Would you like to install a new geocache? New caches must have Arboretum approval in advance, and they must adhere to the geocaching guidelines published on the Geocaching website. If you believe the location you have in mind will fit within these guidelines, please write to A staff member will meet with you to discuss your proposal before final approval is given. Any caches found within the Arboretum that have not been approved by the Arboretum staff will be removed.

Release Policy for Animals and Plants

To help prevent the introduction of new genetic variants or diseases into local populations and garden collections, The Arboretum at Penn State does not permit the release of plants or animals into the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens or other parts of the Arboretum.

The only exception to this rule is that releases of insects will be permitted if the release is part of an approved educational activity and the insects have been collected locally (i.e., within Centre County).

Non-Commercial and Commercial Photography

For the purpose of this policy, “photography” and “photographer” pertain to the use of all image-recording devices, such as cameras, camcorders, iPads, and cell phones. Photographers who wish to bring clients into the Arboretum for a photo session must read the University’s COVID acknowledgment of risk policy for visitors and share the policy with their clients. The Arboretum asks that all photographers, especially those filming videos, respect others’ right to enjoy the peacefulness and tranquility of the Arboretum and of the Smith Botanic Gardens by adhering to the following requests:

  • Do not block walkways or walk in plant beds or water features.
  • Access to power sources in the botanic gardens is reserved for University employees and those authorized to use a venue, such as rental clients.
  • Do not bring furniture, free-standing props, or pets.
  • No free-standing lighting, reflector umbrellas, or other studio equipment may be erected. Lighting equipment or reflectors held by a person are allowed. Exceptions regarding equipment and staging will be made for University-based or University-affiliated camera and film crews.

Certain restrictions apply according to the purpose of the photography, as explained below:

  • Photos taken by visitors or by University faculty, staff, or students are permitted, provided they are for personal or academic purposes rather than for financial gain.
  • All photographers must comply with the stipulations regarding equipment (stated above) and pertaining to wedding photography (explained below).
  • Formal group photos may be taken in the gardens for non-commercial purposes, except as described below for wedding photographs.
  • Please contact the Arboretum at at least two weeks in advance for large group pictures.
  • Commercial photography is prohibited if the subject of the photo is the Arboretum, plants, or venues in the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens.
  • Commercial photography using the Arboretum or the Smith Botanic Gardens as a backdrop for photos taken for a specific, contracted client (such as for senior portraits) is permitted, with the following restrictions.

All photographers, including those affiliated with the University, must submit their names and contact information to the Arboretum at at least two weeks in advance of the photo session and must request permission to hold a photo session at a specific time on a specific date. Permission will only be granted if there is no conflict with another scheduled event.

No commercial photographic session may exceed one hour.

Non-University filmmakers and videographers who wish to film in the Arboretum must contact both the Arboretum at and Stephanie Petulla in the Office of Strategic Communications at

Exceptions to this policy are made for Arboretum rental clients.

  • Limited Access on Saturdays (May through September):
    Both commercial and non-commercial photographers must ask the Arboretum’s events manager ( whether there are weddings scheduled in the gardens before planning a photo session on Saturdays. This permission must be requested at least 48 hours in advance.
  • Wedding Couple Photos inside the Gardens:
    Photographers who wish to take engagement or wedding portraits within the Smith Botanic Gardens may take only the wedding couple (not an entire wedding party or wedding guests) into the formal gardens for this purpose. The photographer may have one assistant to hold equipment.
  • Wedding Group Photos (3 or more people):
    On Saturdays from May through September, photos of wedding parties (3 or more people) may only be taken at the Margery Enes Smith Soaring Waters Fountain that faces Park Avenue, the adjacent lawn, and the boardwalk across the meadow below. No registration is required for wedding photography in these locations. Please see the garden map (PDF) to locate the fountain.

Solicitation Policy

Solicitations are not permitted in the Arboretum. Non-University individuals and groups may not use Arboretum facilities for fundraising or commercial purposes.